One Year To Go Til Oscar’s Olympics!

July 27th 2011 – one year until the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, and as good a time as any to write about one runner in particular…

On 19th July 2011, he ran 45.07 for the 400 metres at a meeting in Italy. That qualified him to run in the 2012 Olympics. Ok, good for him, but many many others have qualified, and many other will qualify. So, what makes him stand out? Well, his name’s Oscar Pistorius, and he doesn’t have legs.

His legs were amputated between the knee and ankle when he was 11 months old, so he’s never really known life to be any different. A such he has never considered himself disabled, he just considered himself as him.

A keen and promising sprinter, in 2007 he began competing in races against able bodied athletes, using special blades. In a sport which has a record of political intrigue, it took no time for the governing body, the IAAF, to take notice. In the same year they changed their rules to disallow any athlete using a device which gave an advantage to other athletes not using the device.

They said it was unrelated to Pistorius, but not many people believed that. Pistorius challenged the ruling, and it went all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who overturned the decision. He was now allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympics, but fell just short of the qualifying time.

Pistorius’ story was now well in the public domain, and he campaigns for disabled people to be viewed and treated the same as able bodied. He is happy to be known as ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘the fastest man on no legs’.

He constantly advocates ‘life without limitations’ and says we should not be judged or held back by disability, rather we should be judged by and use our abilities instead.

Impressive? I think so.

The 400 metres is often called the ’man killer’ of athletics, because it’s a vicious combination of the shorter sprints and the longer middle distance races. The lungs need to have a certain capacity for anyone to be able to do it at the highest level.

Any 400 metre runner has to put in years and years of work and training. Pistorius has had to put in the same amount of work and training, but has also had to battle against prejudice and politics.

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Good for him I say. Will he win in London? Well his fastest time says that he won’t no, but surely for him the victory comes in simply qualifying in the first place

As an athlete he would surely wince at that comment, because he wants to win, but in this article I’m drawing the achievement lessons from the journey rather than one specific result.

It’s an achievement for *anyone* to qualify for an Olympic games, I know I’m not about to do it anytime soon. The achievement of doing it as a double amputee makes it worthy of note, because it shows that barriers can be broken, that what was considered out of reach can be within reach. So when the 2012 Olympics start in London a year from today, keep your eye out for the fastest man on no legs!

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